Esor Ben-Sorek
Esor Ben-Sorek

32 Latkes— 1 Sufganiyah: The Battle of the Bulge

The battle of the “Bulge” better known as La Bataille des Ardennes took place in Belgium between 1944-1945. It was the largest, bloodiest battle with the most casualties ever fought in a war by American troops. It was also the largest German defeat. The “bulge” included Belgian, French, Luxemburgois, American and German fighting forces.

But that “bulge” has no relation to my personal “battle of the bulge”.

Eating 4 potato latkes for 8 nights equals 32 fried in oil potato pancakes in addition to one heavily jelly filled sufganiyah, special Chanukah donut delicacy.
Prior to the first night of Chanukah I weighed myself on a scale — 67 kilos. On the last night of Chanukah I weighed myself again, daring not to look at the number which happened to be 71 kilos.

A gain of 4 kilos. Should I blame it on the latkes or on the sufganiyah? It was, in any case, a battle of my bulge. My belt had a problem to complete a full turn around my waist.

Modern archaeologists have discovered the remains of the ancient Israelite diet. Flat bread, similar to matza, was a staple in the diet eaten with all meals and soaked in olive oil. They have also discovered the remains of various grains, olive pits, pomegrante skins and seeds, legumes, dates and honey.

Fish, if they lived closer to the waters and on holidays they would roast a lamb. Their main beverage was milk of goats and sheep when available.

Regrettably perhaps , but unknown to their tastes were potato latkes (potatoes did not then exist) and sufganiyot jelly-filled fried donuts were unheard of until the 20th century, thousands of years after the Maccabees and their families were no longer among the living.

In a modern reference, basically the ancient Israelites ate the foods which we know today as the Mediterranean diet. That accounts for the longevity of their lives.

Since they were a pastoral people they folded up their tents and moved with their family and flocks in search of better and more fruitful pastures. Moving frequently added to good health through exercise.

During the Hellenistic period in Israel, meat was available in abundance. It was, however, the meat of pigs which the Greeks cherished but which was forbidden to all Jews to eat.

Olives and grapes hung from the vines and produced excellent oil for eating and cooking as well as the mediocre red wine which they crushed from the grapes and drank.

There is no recorded message of Israelite complaints concerning food limitations. Unlike their earlier ancestors who wandered out of Egypt and through the wilderness who bitterly and constantly condemned Moses.

“Why have you brought us to this wilderness to die of hunger? We remember the leeks and the melons we ate in Egypt”.

And for the forty years of their wandering, God provided them with manna which they gathered each morning.

The later Israelite diet, with all its limitations, was sufficient and sustained them.

In my mind I can picture two Israelites sitting before an open fire. One has just consumed a portion of roasted lamb washed down with goat’s milk.

The other had finished a bowl of dried grains washed down with cold milk.

When the latkes (made with dried beans instead of potatoes) were ready to be eaten, the first man said “I’ll take my latkes with sour cream” while the second man said “I’ll take my latkes with apple sauce”.

A kosher Jew versus a non-kosher Jew. None of them have changed over the many centuries.

But thankfully, neither of them asked for sufganiyot for dessert. Kind of them to leave the goodies for the rest of us, wouldn’t you agree?

Tomorrow I’ll have to go shopping to find a new belt for the bulging bulge in my tummy.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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